BMW’s international motorsport division has played and added more ‘go’ to almost every series of BMW car produced in the last 40 years. It started with the mid-engined M1, then came the likes of the M3, M5 and M6, but policy meant that the 7-Series never earned its M stripes. There was, however, a 7-Series that deserved the badge, it was South Africa’s very own E23 745i.
Unperturbed, the South Africans applied the ‘maak ‘n plan’ mentality that had paid large dividends over the years, and slotted the BMW M1-derived 3453cc 286hp (213kW) twin-camshaft 4-valve M88/3 unit under the hood. And of course, like we always did, produced enough units (249) for homologation purposes to enter Group 1 and then Wesbank Modified racing. The sight of a massive saloon being muscled around the circuits by a bare-knuckled man who created the car, Tony Viana, remains entrenched in most motorsport fans’ grey matter.
From the outside only the discreet 745i boot badge and 16-inch alloys really differentiated the monster from BMW’s lesser-engined 7-Series offerings. Inside the cabin however it differed dramatically but not, other than gauges sporting a small motorsport M and marked to 260km/h, with any go-faster accessories, rather touches of high-end class. Hand-stitched leather was used in almost every conceivable part of the business class lounge, ranging from the seats, pillar trim, handbrake handle, gear knob, centre console to even the dash. All the bells and whistles were at hand so the buyer with the bulging bank balance got everything from electric seats with memory function, electric windows, aircon, to onboard computer giving stats like average speed, ambient temperature, fuel range and fuel consumption. Last on that list rings a big bell with today’s petrol price. The 745i held 100 litres of juice but believe it or not, was reasonably economical when not being stomped thanks to its engine’s flexibility and gear ratios suited to South African conditions that gave it the ability to trundle along at normal speed with very little effort and revs. At 60km/h the drinking number came in at around 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres and just over 11 at 120km/h.